I posted a while back about Apple’s (s aapl) freely available Summer Camps for Kids. These camps let children pick an iLife application that they’d like to learn about during a 3-hour session in an Apple retail store.
My son just attended his first Apple Camp and loved it. Since he’s younger — and because I was interested to see what it was all about — I went along with him for the 3-hour camp. The following is a recount of the experience, and what makes this Apple program so ingenious.
There were about a dozen kids on this particular day, each of whom were given a very cool green “Apple Camp” t-shirt upon arrival and sign-in. Geoff, the instructor, immediately learned the name of each camper. This seemed to be key in engaging the kids and keeping their interest and involvement for the remainder of the time. Now, my son is a bit on the shy side, but Geoff (and Apple) created such a comfortable environment that he had no problem interacting with the other kids and this relative stranger leading the group. This alone was a huge success in my book!
This particular camp was focused on Garageband. As such, I expected a direct dive into the music-making iLife application, but Apple’s lesson plan started with the basics — a plan that came full circle in the end. They began by learning iTunes — looking for music in the iTunes store, specifically. Now I knew going in that this was essentially a great marketing campaign, designed to hopefully create life-long customers out of these kids, but Apple really went for the jugular!
The first thing the kids were shown how to do was search for music, movies, audio books, and so on in the iTunes Store. My son already knew about this, but hadn’t done it on his own before. (Now I’m thinking I’d better turn 1-click purchases off!) The intro to iTunes continued by showing the kids how to search their own music library for music they liked, and then create their own playlist, which they’d revisit later on at the end of the course.
Now it was finally time to launch Garageband. To start, they were shown how to use the Learn to Play feature. (And let’s make sure everyone checks out the Artist Lessons that can be purchased at an additional cost! My son especially liked the Fall Out Boy lesson on “I Don’t Care.”) After a little playing with this premium content, they moved on to the Magic Garageband feature, where they saw how all the instruments went together to make a song. They were shown how to isolate some instruments and alter others, all the while getting a feel for Garageband’s potential and the user interface at the same time.
When they were finally given a chance to get into the Loops browser, a little bit of instruction was given on the user interface before they were set free to create their masterpieces from the available instruments and loops. And oh, by the way — there are additional Jam Packs that can be purchased for more loops! These references weren’t a big deal to me; after all, most of it was stuff I would love to buy anyway. Geoff went down the line during the free work time, helping kids as they went, and showing little tips as they seemed ready to absorb them. When it was time to save their music, they learned how to share it to iTunes and add it to their playlist. At this point they were given a blank CD, and taught how to burn their playlist.
Not Going Home Empty-Handed
So at the end of the Camp, my son came home with much more than just the knowledge of how to use Garageband to make some interesting music. He brought his work home on CD (which my wife is really glad to be listening to in the car…over and over again!), but also the desire to check out the iTunes Store, Learn to Play with real Artists, and tinker with endlessly available loops. Oh, and don’t forget the shirt that he’s worn for a couple of days, which has made him the envy of friends young and old!
Apple (and my hat’s off to the instructor, Geoff) did an incredible job of putting on a fun and informative technology camp for kids. Not only did the kids pick up some great skills and learn some new software, but Apple also managed to push some of its premium content at the same time. I’m OK with the marketing, too. I mean, it’s to be expected from a free offering! I was truly impressed with the program, and now my son is chomping at the bit for the next one, when he’ll get to learn iMovie. Great work, Apple. I’m sure you’ve secured yet another life-long customer in my son.